Pictures only tell half of the story.
For instance, if you scroll down for a minute and look at the pictures of the aptly and unimaginatively named grande plage, you may assume we took a direct flight from Nantes to the Caribbean.
Not at all. We bought a €45 two-day TER—transport express regional—train pass valid for up to five people travelling together on the extensive regional network, which is quite a deal considering how expensive train tickets can be.
First stop? Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, 80 kilometres south of Nantes, on the Atlantic coast.
If you’re still checking out the pictures and paying attention, you will also notice that Mark is wearing his raincoat and that a few sunbathers clearly didn’t realize that you’re supposed to take off your leather jacket on the beach—that’s because it was sunny but chilly and very windy. I ain’t going to lie. The beach was excellent and I spend a couple of hours walking on the sand but I found it too cold to strip down to my swimsuit and go for a dip.
Regardless, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie was a pleasant surprise.
Feng, Mark and I visited the town two years ago, and I remembered it as cute and friendly. Even in the middle of peak season—August 15 is a public holiday in France—, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie didn’t disappoint. A cotton candy, two coffees, three sandwiches and three pains au chocolat later, I was able to confirm that locals were polite and didn’t try to scam stupid tourists like us.
“Hey, check out this sign! The poste de secours (first-aid centre) is open from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. So, if you’re planning to kill grandma at the beach, aim for 1 p.m.!”
Despite the tiny train station and the smallest waiting room ever, Saint-Gilles is pretty big and spread out. The town is both a seaside resort and a fishing harbour and the two cultures offer an interesting mix that works surprisingly well. There are dozens of shops selling fishing and boating gear and every second person you meet in the street wears the traditional Breton shirt with its 21 white and 20 indigo-blue stripes, either the worn-out version (locals) or a brand new t-shirt (tourists). Almost every restaurant menu features poisson (fish) and moules (mussels) and you can buy fancy cans of sardines and tuna in many shops on the main street. Even the supermarket had the most impressive fresh seafood ever!
… and the other half of the story is best told in pictures.
I need to sleep, anyway, even though I’m pretty sure I’m going to dream of sardines.
Tomorrow, we’re tackling the city of Angers.